By Sterling McGinn
The Newberry fireworks display, a hot topic with the Pentland Township Board, was the main item discussed at their regular monthly meeting held Tuesday, June 14 at 7 p.m.
Although not listed on the agenda that evening, fireworks organizer Josiah Sharrett spoke to the board during public comment. His comments evolved into a lengthy discussion including members of the board and public.
“I know there was a discussion about my show at the last meeting, so I am here to address any concerns or comments,” Sharrett said.
The Newberry Fireworks Association, an organization set up by Josiah Sharrett two years ago, began raising funds for this year’s display in April. Collection cans were distributed throughout the community and the association’s goal was to raise $10,000 to continue making the event bigger and better each year. The display is scheduled to again take place at Schubach farms located on M-123 south of town.
The 2022 event was discussed in length at the May Pentland meeting where advice was received from township attorney Craig Rolfe. The board was informed that a permit needed to be filed because the fireworks show was a public event taking place within the township. In addition, the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act gives the legislative body of cities, villages and townships authority and jurisdiction over fireworks for public and private use.
Pentland Township Clerk Greg Rathje said he had communicated with landowner and association member Misty Schubach on May 18, and that she had received a copy of the state law and permit. He also told the board that Schubach had wanted to cancel this year’s event.
“We had discussed cancelling it because we were not sure if we were going to be able to get the insurance in time,” Sharrett said. He did say, however, that they were able to get insurance in time to continue for this year.
Rathje told Sharrett that a four-page application needed to be filled out and filed in order to hold a public fireworks display in Pentland Township.
“He sends it to us; we vote on it, and we agree to issue a permit—if we agree,” explained Rathje to the rest of the board. “The permit is a separate form that the state fire marshal sent us.”
Sharrett noted that his attorney informed him that legally, the Newberry Fireworks Association could move forward with the event as is. “I don’t want to do that, I want to work with the local governing community,” Sharrett said.
“We are using fireworks that an 18-year-old kid can fire off on any private property during July 1-6,” Sharrett said. “After the small incident last year, we are switching over to strictly cakes. One of my guys didn’t put a tote back under the table all the way, and a small fuse fell into a couple of them and there was a small burst of fireworks. Nobody got hurt and everyone was completely safe.”
Sharrett said the firework cakes will be individually unpacked and set for lighting. “We intend to have the fire department, ambulance and the volunteer police to direct traffic this year,” he said.
Resident Jack Thomas expressed that the residents like the event, but they want professionalism and safety.
The Newberry Fireworks Association needs to furnish proof of financial responsibility, through a bond or insurance policy, the board said, and providing liability coverage at an amount determined by the board. Sharrett said the Schubach Farms already have liability coverage at an amount of one million dollars per incident.
The board and members of the public questioned whether the Newberry Fireworks Association was a nonprofit organization. Sharrett said that The Newberry Fireworks Association is essentially a non-profit organization, though they are not fully licensed yet.
Once the Newberry Fireworks Association files their application and the necessary paperwork is received, the board will hold a special meeting to decide whether they will issue the permit.
Sharrett said that he would file the necessary paperwork within a couple of days. Rathje informed the Newberry News prior to press time that the application was received by the township but was incomplete.
Days after the Jun 14 meeting, the Newberry Fireworks Association announced that the show will be held on July 2 at the Schubach Farms. According to a flyer posted on Facebook, there will be hotdogs, chips and pastries available as well as a bounce house on hand starting at 4 p.m.
“We are doing it on the July 2 because we don’t want to interfere with July 4 events in Curtis and others,” Sharrett said.
“We are working together with the Pentland Township board, and we are getting the necessary permits they requested that we have,” he said. “We are all working together to move this forward and that everyone is covered.”
Along with the application, the township asked for a copy of the insurance certificate as well as written responses from Schubach Farms, Newberry Fire Department, Luce County Ambulance and the Luce County Sheriff’s Department.
The Newberry News will continue to follow this story.